PRESS RELEASE: Attorney Joshua Prince Secures Major Victory Against City of Erie

Today, the Commonwealth Court issued its decision in Justin Dillon v. City of Erie, 1038 CD 2013, which dealt with, in part, whether the City’s ordinance prohibiting the possession of firearms in City parks, Ordinance 955.06(b), was invalid due to 18 Pa.C.S. Section 6120 – a municipal firearm regulation preemption statute. A copy of the decision can be found here.

In the 13 page decision by President Judge Pelligrini, the Court found that the trial court erred in finding that Mr. Dillon did not have a clear right to relief, because Section 6120 “preempt Section 955.06(b) by its own terms and by the case law and precludes the City from regulating the lawful possession of firearms.” Furthermore, the Court found that the trial court erred in finding that Mr. Dillon did not demonstrate that he would suffer an immediate and irreparable injury. Citing to City of Erie v. Northwestern Pennsylvania Food Council, 322 A.2d 407, 412 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1974), the Court held that

Pennsylvania law does not require a person to be prosecuted to find that he has suffered irreparable harm, and a litigant is relieved of demonstrating this prerequisite where, as here, the only remedy available was prosecution under Section 955.99 of the City’s Ordinances based on his violation of Section 955.06(b).

Therefore, the Court declared, “Because Section 6120(a) prohibits the City from regulating the lawful possession of firearms, an irreparable injury is present in this case.” Lastly, in turning to the remaining contested issues for an injunction, the Court held

[T]he City’s unlawful regulation of the lawful possession of firearms shows that a greater injury will occur by refusing to grant the injunction because Section 955.06(b) of the City’s Ordinances is unenforceable; the injunction is reasonably suited to abate the offending activity by enjoining the enforcement of this unlawful and unenforceable ordinance; and the injunction will not adversely affect the public interest because the City was prohibited from enacting Section 955.06(b) and the ordinance is, again, unlawful and unenforceable.

As a result, the Court ordered that

[The] portion of the order denying preliminary injunctive relief with respect to the enforcement of Section 955.06(b) of the City’s Ordinances is reversed; and the case is remanded to the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County with the direction to enter an order granting Justin Dillon’s request for a preliminary injunction and to dispose of his request for a permanent injunction enjoining the enforcement of Section 955.06(b) in accordance with the foregoing opinion.

However, in relation to the lost and stolen handgun ordinance, Ordinance 739.01, the Court was split in the decision, 4 – 3. The majority held “the trial court properly denied preliminary injunctive relief with respect to Section 739.01 because Dillon does not have standing to obtain the requested relief” because “there is no allegation that Dillon has lost his firearm or will lose his firearm in the future, and there is no indication that Section 739.01 or the penalties outlined in Section 739.99 will ever be applicable to him.”

In dissent to this portion of the Decision, Judge Brobson issued a dissenting Opinion, joined by Judge Leavitt and Judge McCullough, declaring that while the decision is consistent with prior case law of the Commonwealth Court, “I, however, continue to believe that our precedent in this regard is in error and should be revisited.”

We all at Prince Law Offices, P.C. and Firearms Industry Consulting Group would like to congratulate Attorney Joshua Prince, your PA Gun Attorney, on this victory. We also want to acknowledge all the assistance Attorney Allen Thompson provided in the litigation of this matter. Lastly, this litigation would not have been possible without the continued support of the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund (CRDF). We thank all of those involved who contributed to this litigation.

7 thoughts on “PRESS RELEASE: Attorney Joshua Prince Secures Major Victory Against City of Erie

  1. Joshua, Congratulations and THANK YOU for your vigilance and hard work protecting the rights of law abiding firearms owners. Joe Keffer


    1. Essentially, the Court found that municipalities cannot regulate the possession, transport, or transfer of firearms, because 18 Pa.C.S.A. s. 6120 prohibits municipal regulation of firearms. The Court of Common Pleas for Erie County found that the question was unclear – the Commonwealth Court held that the statute was clear and preempted local ordinances regulating firearms.

      The decision granted the preliminary injunction because it found that municipalities are clearly prohibited from enacting firearms regulations. Because the City of Erie enacted a regulation pertaining to the possession and/or transport of firearms, state law preempted the law.

      Much of decision was based on the requirements to get a preliminary injunction. One of the issues was whether or not Mr. Dillon could even challenge the law, since it hadn’t actually been enforced against him at the time the injunction was requested. The Court said that Mr. Dillon didn’t need to wait to be prosecuted before he challenged the law. The Court also said that the harm he would suffer if the law was enforced would be irreparable, another requirement for a preliminary injunction.

      While all 7 judges on the Court agreed that Erie’s ordinance could not be enforced because of 18 Pa.C.S.A. s. 6120 (which is the preempting state law), 3 judges also would have allowed Mr. Dillon to challenge the ordinance that requires gun owners to report lost or missing firearms within three days of discovering they are missing. The Court held that Mr. Dillon had not been threatened with enforcement of this law and had not lost a firearm, so he couldn’t challenge the law. They didn’t hold that it was a valid ordinance or that NO ONE could challenge the law, only that Mr. Dillon could not at this point.


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